Sonoma: Gary Densham preview

Densham says 85-percent rule is causing problems SONOMA, Calif. (July 28, 2005) A little more than a year ago, in response to the tragic death of Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell, the NHRA made several changes to slow down nitro-burning racecars...

Densham says 85-percent rule is causing problems

SONOMA, Calif. (July 28, 2005) A little more than a year ago, in response to the tragic death of Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell, the NHRA made several changes to slow down nitro-burning racecars in an attempt to make them safer. One of the big changes was lowering the maximum amount of nitromethane used in the fuel mixture from 90 to 85 percent.

The theory was that less of the explosive fuel would slightly reduce speeds and make the combustion in the engine compartment less volatile, thereby drastically lowering the amount of catastrophic engine failures that cause, at the very least, a big mess on the race track that takes time to clean up.

At first, says Racebricks Chevrolet Monte Carlo Funny Car driver Gary Densham, the plan worked. But now, as crew chiefs continue to tweak their set-ups to regain the power they loss to the nitro reduction, another problem has sprouted up.

"I talked to [engine builder] Brad Anderson the other day and he said that a year ago about this time he had maybe six or seven engine blocks that needed repair," Densham said. "Right now he has more than 50 at his shop. And he said it's not small repairs that need to be done. A lot of them are total carnage.

"It's simple really; crew chiefs are pushing these things much harder then they did before. If you're a multi-car team with a ton of money, you just deal with it. For independent racers like me, it's tough to keep up because we literally can't buy the replacement parts we need. They just aren't out there to have. It's a problem."

Densham laments the fact that for the first time in his career with his own Funny Car, he actually has the funding to keep up with the top teams. But alas, all the money in the world can't buy something that doesn't exist.

"Marty Yacoobian at Racebricks has been a Godsend," Densham said. "So has Evan Knoll at Torco Race Fuels. But I've found a new way to be frustrated because I've got the money they're sponsoring us with and I can't buy the parts I need. It'll be another two or three weeks before [suppliers] catch up."

In the meantime, Densham will preserve and try his best to win this weekend's 18th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals. With plenty of support from his Southern California-based group of family and friends, who have made the trip up to the wine country, Densham will not be short on a cheering section.

"Bruton Smith built an awesome facility here and I'd dearly love to have a great weekend for all our supporters," Densham said.

The NHRA POWERade Series starts pro qualifying with sessions on Friday at 3:45 and 6:45 p.m. Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and 3 p.m. before final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Sunday.

ESPN2 will air coverage of this weekend's event starting with qualifying at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. Final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. NHRA 2Day starts at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, also on ESPN2.

-rbr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Densham